This Modern V12 Ferrari Breadvan Is the Most Elegant Coachbuilt Car We’ve Seen in Ages

A 550 Maranello works as the modern equivalent of the 1962 250 GT SWB Breadvan by Drogo.

The Dutch-British firm Niels van Roij Design is responsible for a number of impressive one-off and small-series vehicles, including a Tesla Model S shooting brake, the Carat Duchatelet Rolls-Royce Wraith shooting brake, and of course, the two-door Range Rover known as the Adventum Coupe. Still, the most impressive so far has to be this, the strictly one-off Niels van Roij Design Breadvan Hommage. First sketched by the Dutch designer sometime in 2018, it was hand-hammered into shape by renowned builder Bas van Roomen, using a donor Ferrari 550 Maranello coupé equipped with a six-speed manual transmission.

Building an hommage to the 1962 original using a front-engine V12 was the right call. Not only did the 250 GT use the same recipe, but the 550 Maranello itself also became a proper racing machine thanks to companies like Italtecnica, Baumgartner Sportwagen Technik, and most famously, Prodrive in England. Now, ready for 2021, we get the new Breadvan penned by Niels van Roij, who had the difficult task of implementing all the rather weird design features of the original Drogo-bodied prototype onto a Ferrari from the nineties designed by Pininfarina. The Dutchman went all in, and the result is impressive, to say the least.

Niels van Roij Design
Niels van Roij Design

While it’s getting more and more difficult to get excited about Ferrari’s more recent flood of one-off V12s, whoever commissioned this Breadvan Hommage won’t be bored with this completely-transformed 550. Yet before we’d get into the details, here’s what the 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Breadvan is all about:

The “Palace Revolution” at Ferrari was when engineering masterminds Carlo Chiti and Giotto Bizzarrini, as well as a number of other high-profile employees, broke ties with the famously difficult Enzo Ferrari in 1961, only to establish ATS and continue racing against Scuderia Ferrari with the financial backing of Giovanni Volpi, head of Scuderia Serenissima. When Ferrari refused to sell the new 250 GTO to Count Volpi due to his involvement with his former crew, Bizzarrini and Volpi came up with a new idea against Enzo’s GTOs, which turned an outdated 1962 250 GT SWB into a lightweight monster with a longer nose and an aerodynamic shooting brake rear featuring a Kamm-tail, hand-built by body specialist Piero Drogo.

Successful in period and once painted silver, the car has been restored a number of times since and remains in an excellent race-ready condition to this day. Thanks to that, I’m lucky enough to have seen this car race at Goodwood more than once, and as it turns out, Niels van Roij Design’s customer also witnessed the miracle that is the Breadvan there, just as it was doing its best against a Jaguar E-Type. Then, an idea was born.

When challenged with the job, Niels van Roij soon realized that only the windshield will remain the stock Ferrari part, with his team adding unique headlights, read lights, air intakes, and the iconic exhaust system to the 550 Maranello, while partners such as Koni and Vredestein took care of the unique suspension and tire package.

“Automotive design is about the search and the experiment, which is only truly achievable in a handmade sketch,” the experienced coachbuilder Niels van Roij said in a press release. “In the ideation sketches, differences can not only be seen in proportions and surfacing, the skin of the car but also in the application of graphics and other details. Such as the bespoke exhausts and unique headlights. Eventually, this process produces a so-called key sketch: the one sketch chosen to be developed into more elaborated, rendered ideas.”

“It was a complex task to translate the essence of the legendary car into a contemporary design. We intended to be inspired by the original but ensured we were not limited by it in our creativity. The Breadvan Hommage is a new original,” he added.

To successfully complete such a job after sketches and renderings got the approval, quite a lot of full-size clay modeling needed to be done before the master could start hitting some metal. Van Roij says that during the highly labor-intensive clay modeling process, the car was further refined and all challenges, such as the integration of a bevel around the roof and the new headlights, were ironed out.

“A car is a complex, three-dimensional sculpture, which has to look right from all angles and under a different light,” said the designer. “Like sketching, the clay modeling process is iterative and the Breadvan Hommage was reshaped many times, to get it to spot on. After establishing the correct proportions the search for sophistication in the surfacing, or skin, started: finding the right subtleties for transitions from one element to another. It includes the exterior graphics like the richly sculpted air vents on the fenders.”

And how about that see-through powerdome putting the Ferrari V12 on display? Just like in 1962!

Designed to be a great gran turismo in the mid-1990s, the 550 Maranello came with a pretty luxurious interior from Ferrari already, yet clearly not the kind you’d expect to see in a hand-built one-off in the 2020s. Keeping that in mind, Niels van Roij Design left nothing untouched.

“The iconic outline of the exterior design has been embroidered into the blue Alcantara carbon fiber seats. The monogram can also be found on the dials, all 7 boasting pure silver inlays,” said van Roij. “All switchgear is made out of milled aluminum, linking to the gated shifter, which is set on a raised block. The driver is surrounded by quilted black leather: it can be found on the center console, the lower door cards, and the headliner. The door panels feature an unpainted, hand-beaten aluminum element, which beautifully links to the custom body made in the exact same way. The door is opened by pulling a lightweight red cord, whilst a blue Alcantara insert functions as a grab handle to close the door. A small embroidered Italian flag in the corner of the aluminum insert element of the door is highlighting the roots of the vehicle.”

Now that’s more like it.

Looking at those carbon fiber racing buckets, one would expect some performance upgrades beyond the happy exhausts.

Since the 1962 Breadvan was equipped with Koni single adjustable shock absorbers, the team asked local Koni to supply this project with its best racing shock absorbers package. The Dutch experts sent their double adjustable 8211-series units, which make the Breadvan Hommage “relatively comfortable around town,” as well as a serious player on track duty.

Also from The Netherlands, premium tire company Vredestein threw in their Ultrac Vorti+ high-performance summer rubbers, which were first developed in 2013 dedicated to supercars, designed in close collaboration with ItalDesign Giugiaro. Upgraded since, the Breadvan should pack plenty of grip for some rapid bakery runs.

Last, but not least, a few words about the man who picked up the hammer and other shaping tools only the best can handle: Bas van Roomen. He works on behalf of major collectors and high-end restoration companies and is one of only a few in the Netherlands that builds modern coachbuilt cars, including the products of Niels van Roij. Hand-beaten into a fitting Breadvan Hommage, his latest was finished in one of eight specially designed red paints.

Perhaps the only question remains: would you race this against… a Lister LFT-666?

Niels van Roij Design Breadvan Hommage., Niels van Roij Design

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